Last year I was invited to participate in a research project to investigate the use of social software in teaching and learning and in capability building and contributes to our understanding of the ways in which the development of social softwares broadens opportunities for organisations to deliver flexible learning both to internal and external clients. The project project was jointly commissioned by the Research and Policy Advice and the Knowledge Sharing Services Projects as part of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.
The results of this research have now been published, under the title Networks, Connections and Community: Learning with Social Software, and it provides some interesting insights into into how technology is being used for knowledge sharing, capability development, and teaching and learning.
The approach used for the research followed an appreciative inquiry methodology, and the report provides a summary of each of the four phases of this approach:
- Discovery ??? appreciating ???what is??? (identifying and confirming current practice, collecting success stories)
- Dreaming ??? imagining how it could be (identifying future or emerging practice, the vision)
- Design ??? determining what should be (recommendations and strategies for implementation)
- Destiny ??? implementing the design.
I was particularly interested in a section of the report (page 35 on) that discusses the selection of social software to suit the learning activity, as this follows a matrix approach that I have used for many years now when discussing the use of technology in distance education. This is developed further to look at the use of social software to target specific groups, teaching disciplines and qualifications levels. I like the use of these sorts of frameworks as ways of establishing shared understandings about the range of issues and concerns that exist – and help us avoid the trap of the “one-size-fits-all” mentality.
This will prove an invaluable reference work for anyone who is contemplating the value and/or contribution of social software in education – and for anyone who is considering research in this area.